In most cases, when Africans in the West gather together to celebrate their culture or commemorate some event in the home country, a lot of singing, drumming, dancing and eating are expected. But this perception was thrown overboard in Burnaby, Saturday August 23, at the Ghana Fest08 organized by Ghana-Canada Association of British Columbia. Indeed there was a lot of singing, dancing, drumming and eating, but there was also a lot of speech-making and a scholarly presentation.
The president of the Ghana-Canada association of BC, Dr. Charles Quist-Adade underscored that point in his brief remarks at the event when he stated that there are many things Africans can share about their culture apart from the usual singing and dancing and general merriment. He added that Africa is not just about war, disease and famine; that there are progressive things going on in Africa that are not normally reported in the mainstream Western media.
The guest speaker, Dr. Kwadwo Ohene-Asante spoke about several aspects of Ghanaian culture including marriage, religion, food, and the layers that constitute the Ghanaian family. He said when people talk about Canadian culture they usually mean the Eurocentric culture of Canada whereas Canada has many cultures: Native Indian, Asian, African etc. He said even in Ghanaian culture you have different cultures like Ga-Adangbe, Ewe, Hausa, Asante, etc.
Dr. Ohene-Asante pointed out that the Ghanaian family has many layers, that the Ghanaian family is not nuclear (husband, wife,children) but extended to include siblings, parents, cousins and even neighbours or people from the same village or town. He said because Ghanaian culture is mainly matrilineal, the woman is usually the head of the family and takes most of the major decisions although the man or husband appears to be in control. He illustrated his point with a reference to Asante culture in which the Queen Mother usually decides who is fit and qualified to ascend the throne in matters of succession.
Marriage in Ghanaian culture, he said, is not restricted to husband and wife only, but members of the two families, with the parents of the two families playing a prominent role. The children normally belong to the matrilineal family and the whole village participates in raising them as the case may be.
On religion, he said Ghanaians, like other Africans, had their own religions before the arrival of Western Christian missionaries and Islamic scholars and missionaries but modern Ghana is now mainly Christian,with a large Muslim population in the north of the country. African religion, he added, still exists in the country even though it’s not as prominent as the two major religions. "We do not forget our ancestors," he said.
Ghana’s Consul-General in British Columbia, Mr. George Piprah, said British Columbians are involved in many projects in Ghana like the work of the Korle Bu Neuroscience Foundation which seeks to improve medical services at one of Ghana’s major teaching hospitals, the Korle Bu hospital in Accra. He also mentioned the fact that many Ghanaians have lived and studied in British Columbia like for example Mahamudu Bawumia, the current vice presidential candidate of the ruling party in Ghana, the NPP. Mahmood studied Economics at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. The presidential candidate of the opposition NDC, professor Atta Mills, also lived and taught at the University of British Columbia. Thus, Piprah observed, British Columbia is on the minds of some of the top politicians in Ghana.
Dr. Carol Mayer, head of the curatorial department at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia did a presentation on the African collection at the museum which includes objects from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and other African countries.
After the speeches and presentation, a real festival of African music dance then followed. There were cultural dances from the Ewe, Ga-Adamgbe,and Akan people of Ghana. A Sierra Leonean cultural group also performed and an interesting story was delivered by Nigerian story teller Comfort Ero.
Later, at night, DJ Stan, DJ Apaak and DJ Obosi rocked the hall with the latest African sounds that wowed the dancing crowd which kept asking for me till closing time.
Photos, top to bottom: Dr. Kwadwo Ohene-Asante, Ghanaian cultural dancers and Sierra Leonean cultural dancers(in green, white and blue).